Did you know that March is Endometriosis Awareness month? Do you even know what Endometriosis is? And if so, do you know that acupuncture can be an effective complementary treatment to manage the symptoms of endometriosis?
Endometriosis refers to the painful and chronic condition in which the tissue that lines the uterus is found outside of the uterus as well – on the fallopian tubes, in the abdomen, on the ovaries, on the ligaments supporting the uterus, and on the lining of the pelvic cavity. This tissue acts the same way that it does in the uterus – meaning that it builds up, breaks down, and sheds each month. When this tissue is in the uterus, where it is supposed to be, this causes the menstrual flow, which is a good and healthy occurrence. However, when this tissue is misplaced elsewhere in the body and sheds, the blood doesn’t have anywhere to go, and can cause pain, scar tissue formations, and adhesions.
Common clinical symptoms of endometriosis include intense pain before and during periods, pain with sexual intercourse, infertility, painful bowel movements, and chronic digestive issues. Standard treatment options for endometriosis include pain medication to moderate the cramping and pain with the menstrual cycle, hormonal therapy to stop ovulation for as long as possible (which has other understandable side-effects), “conservative” surgery to remove as many of the growths and lesions as possible, or in severe cases, radical surgery such as removal of the ovaries or complete hysterectomy.
The good news is, acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can help! The Endometriosis Association recommends Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a complementary therapeutic treatment for endometriosis patients. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine treatment focuses on treating the underlying imbalance causing the endometriosis symptoms – from a TCM perspective, this is often related to “blood stagnation”, meaning that the blood energy of the body is not moving properly, particularly in the reproductive system. This stagnation causes the pain, cramping, and digestive upset commonly seen in patients with endometriosis. The TCM treatment also focuses on nourishing the reproductive system to restore hormonal balance and reduce symptoms. Preliminary Western scientificresearch has also shown that acupuncture may reduce pain in endometriosis patients.
TCM also uses nutritional therapy to treat cases of painful periods and to regulate the menstrual cycle. Patients with endometriosis, for instance, should stay away from heavy meats, dairy products, and refined sugars, all of which are cloying and stagnating to the system. Depending on whether the endometriosis is more of a hot or a cold-type stagnation (your acupuncturist can tell you which), there are many other spices and foods that are recommended to include or avoid in the diet in order to promote the smooth flow of energy and blood through the reproductive system.
So if you or someone you know suffers from endometriosis, spread the word (this is Endometriosis Awareness month, after all!) about the benefits of acupuncture and natural medicine for complementary treatment options.